bf_eileen_icon.gif elisabeth3_icon2.gif bf_gabriel_icon.gif vf_ruiz_icon.gif

Scene Title Parallaxis
Synopsis A gathering, in which Gabriel helps Mateo find the horizon.
Date November 25, 2014


Sunset sets the sky ablaze from the west, throwing shadows sharp and strange through black trees. The air is filled with the sound of cicadas, and devoid of birdsong. Every now and then, some strange, bass sound rolls from a vast distance, thrumming through the bones of the earth.

And all the girl can hear is her blood in her ears as she runs.

And does not look back, focused centrally on the pace of her breathing, heart rate, one leg thrown in front of the other in long, gangly strides and agile leaps that have her tearing unstoppably through damp forest brush. Her adrenaline is at its peak rush, fear warmed into giddiness overflowing and pumping through her veins, but there's no fooling herself.

She can't go like this forever. The thing that's following her, well.

It can.

Two minutes. Just two. If she can outlast it for two minutes—

She hears it in its impact against the forest floor, in the way that plantlife tears like wet tissue over its shoulders. It never quickens and never slows but is closing in as her muscles begin to flag. Darting in and around the trees, she leaps over a felled log, and gasps when moments later, she hears the splintering sound of something obliterating it beneath its own forceful weight.

One minute. Just one. If she can outlast—

She trips as a root snags her foot, a snapping pain searing from ankle to knee, throwing her forward to land and roll, the breath knocked out of her, skull striking off something she never sees. It feels like someone took a metal bat to her head, like that one time her sister accidentally clocked her when they were playing in the street, and there was blood everywhere, and her vision doubles as she blinks up at the shadowy forest canopy.

The incessant thumping of pursuit slows to a soft mechanical whir, and she turns her head. Warmth trickles from her forehead, seeps into her eye, obscures her vision, but she sees it well enough. Those terrible glowing red eyes, blazing yet utterly empty. The gleam of low light off steel flanks, the rise of steam. The silver needle protruding from behind its teeth like a long string of saliva. It's even dripping.

Devoid of anticipation, mercy, or hunger, it moves towards her at its leisure.

A noise like an explosion fills her senses, and the forest floor lifts in a windtunnel of leaves and twigs, her hair whipping backwards, her clothing billowing like a sail off of her limbs. She closes her eyes only to squint them open again to see that the creature has stopped, unmoving and solid in all the chaos of dust and dirt and dead plant life in a whirlwind around it, and behind it—

Behind it, a distortion, a ripple, a black mirror growing flat in the middle of the air, tipped forward, tinged in a queasy orange light that pulses around its edges that seem to burn through the air.

Metal feet make trenches in the earth as the Hunter is dragged backwards towards the floating abyss, and mounted turrets, hitherto unused despite the hunt, suddenly spin wildly. Laying flat against the ground as that vacuum pull rakes over her, she throws her arms over head as automatic gunfire sprays wildly, its thunderous clamour piercing the roar of the storm that has filled the forest. Bullets shear strips off the tree, sends plumes of dirt and earth into the air, shatters rock and stone.



The sound of cicadas, distantly.

She lifts her head, blood trickling down past her chin, staring at where the hunter once stood, and then up towards where that strange black mirror had hovered, and no longer does. The silence grows into a whine in her ears, the air thick with it. Closing her eyes before her head slumps back down onto her arms, Billy Jean Cambria falls unconscious.

Hudson Highlands

New York

Sunset sets the sky ablaze from the west, throwing shadows sharp and strange through black trees. The air is filled with the sound of cicadas, and late day birdsong twistles and twoos through the leaves. Every now and then, the distant scrap of traffic from far across the Hudson River manages to catch the westerly wind, but otherwise, they're alone.

They being the four of them, gathered yet worlds apart. Gabriel Gray can feel the strange tension and pull between each entity — Mateo Ruiz at a disconnect, Elisabeth Harrison's nigh constant strain and watchful air, and Eileen Gray's tangible disapproval. She, he can feel most of all, both through the empathic feedback loop they share together as well as her presence dispersed amongst the birds in the trees, so that she can look down at them from any angle she chooses. And, hopefully, keep a lookout.

Gabriel isn't concentrating on that, anyway. He's concentrating on a mote of darkness.

Because he's slightly concerned about letting his control slip, hands hovered out in front of him. Any ability he's copied over through a study of feelings as opposed to exposed grey matter runs the risk of wildness in his blood, but that just means — he's pretty sure — that all it takes is a little effort. Gravity is invisible, and there's no glow, no ripple, no distortion as he applies his focus on the miniscule void currently hovering in the air between himself and Mateo Ruiz.

"So what's the plan normally," he says, almost conversationally, if you ignore the way his eyes never leave the hole they've punctured into reality, "you tear the fabric of space and time, hope for the best?"

Dark eyes flick up over to the other man, then back to the task at hand.

The noise in his head is much louder than the noise of the tiny pinhole that Ruiz has punched into space. It still draws in the air around it, but not in the furious pull that Liz had witnessed in the past. It’s not that he has more control, either, considering he’s spent much of the years that they’ve been living in this world voluntarily negated. Not since Elisabeth contacted him again, though. Not since he agreed to try to help.

Even if he did not seem as much in a hurry to leave this world as he had been in the past, in his own. Seeing the two had been a strange deja vu. Everyone had heard of Gabriel Gray, aka Sylar in the Hub. There had been boogie man stories about the host of Kazimir, the man he’d once been and the man who’d taken his place. Just as everyone had seen the small bird-like woman who had gone from prisoner to possible compatriot.

Their story did not have a happy ending there. But here they seemed to be happy.

Just as he was, with Lynette and his family.

“I’m not sure what Magnes would do. He talked a lot about trying to push the gravity toward the center of it.” That doesn’t mean he’s sure how it works. He’s just hoping this doesn’t have the same effect on him as it had the first time— maybe Magnes had just had a rough hand. His ability has always been unstable. It practically sang out with the rushing sound of a miniscule torrent. But it was nothing compared to the gnashing sound in his head, or the nervous sound of his heart thumping in his chest.

Elisabeth watches quietly, her arms crossed and her stance widened to better balance. She doesn't even realize she's doing it, but she's swaying side to side just a little, as one learns to do without conscious effort when you have a baby. The Mom Sway. She'd be embarrassed if she realized it. Her blue eyes hold wariness as she surveys this attempt and she pulls in a slow breath. "It doesn't matter what Magnes would have done," she observes quietly. He's gone. "In both cases, Magnes was highly augmented… but when the portal opened, he thought what he was doing was… controlling the rampant flow of energy, I guess?" she hazards, glancing at Ruiz. "The levels of power that the portal pulled from around us were amazing — electrical as well as heat energy, and I don't even know what else it may have been drawing. And then gravity added to it seemed to stabilize it. At which point…"

Elisabeth trails off and admits, "We basically did exactly that, Gabriel. Stepped in and hoped that there was something on the far end. Figured if not, at least we'd die fast. But now that we know there's something on the far side… the one thing Magnes was worried about was a possible sentience somewhere in the Void. One of the tests in Virus … went very strangely sideways. And since you're kind of feeling your way in the dark here… be careful what you grab at," she warns worriedly.

“You could stop.”

Eileen, largely silent until now, is careful to dull her voice’s natural edge. She’s unable to do much about the anger behind her eyes, which are by default a stormy gray-green, but she has control over her tone and the words she chooses to attach to it.

“It’s been years,” she continues, neutral, even kind, “you have a home here, your families. Our government is progressive, benevolent. Your children would grow up in a world that embraces people like us. A world without real sickness, or disease. Without war.”

Although her gaze remains on a fixed point — her husband — she directs her words at Elisabeth from where she stands on the fringe of the small gathering, arms drawn in and folded across her midsection.

Everything about the Englishwoman is guarded, from her body language to her speech — more subdued than Elisabeth ever remembers. Her voice sounds raw, almost rough, as though she’s been screaming.

And she has. Recently.

Only not in front of Elisabeth and Mateo.

It's the cant to Gabriel's head that lets Elisabeth know that he's listening, visual focus otherwise concentrated on the impossible little keyhole into infinity. Then, a firming to his jawline as Eileen speaks up, like even the sound of her voice runs over his nerves, a bow across strings, testing their tension. Still, if he didn't want her here, she wouldn't be. Neither would he, more than likely.

"So we're talking some anomalous variation of your power," Gabriel says, raising an eyebrow. "But then again, maybe we're not. If Magnes contributed a stabilising factor, then maybe Elisabeth's right. It doesn't matter. Doesn't have to matter."

In his veins runs the potential to unleash enough radioactive power to decimate a city. In his bones lurks an age-old darkness that siphons life from one thing to the next. The idea of harnessing what Mateo cannot is an easy and familiar twinge in his gut, but doesn't manifest in action — those days are behind him.

From his other outstretched hand, his fingers begin to glow with a subtle orange pulse. Radioactive energy, emitting through his skin, from his bones.

Of all the people here, Ruiz finds himself agreeing with Eileen. And from his sideways glance at her she might well see that. He’s not planning to step into whatever portal they make. Not with the life he’s built here. At least his doubt doesn’t fluctuate the unstable portal anymore than it already is.

“Magnes wasn’t amplified in the test that went sideways,” he notes instead of to Elisabeth. “Perhaps it didn’t matter.” He had been when they arrived, apparently, when he’d thought he was turning into a black hole, and when they left. But not in their playing around within the Hub. That had been done without any additional assistance.

After a second, he raises a hand up and suddenly a second hole in space appears. And both of them stabilize. It drew on the ambient energy in the air, but if any of them brought cellphones, there could be some drainage of their battery after two portals. “This is the stable version. I think that the hole needs an exit. Or that Point A needs a Point B, in order to stop doing…” Whatever it is it does. “This version is a stable portal. Anything that goes in one comes out the other. So maybe what Magnes did was help make a Point B somewhere I can’t see.”

Like another world.

Sadness flickers over Elisabeth's features with Eileen's suggestion. That the woman is not happy with any of this is obvious. "I wish you were right, Eileen," she replies in a tone of regret as she watches the men. "I wish… that just choosing to give up would make this all go away. But we are the proof they've been searching for. They will kill me just like they killed the Elisabeth you knew."

She pauses and looks at Eileen. "I'm sorry," she tells the other woman sincerely. It's probably not worth much, but it's all she has. She tried to keep them out of it. Framing Gabriel for Liz Harrison's death was not her doing. "Your progressive, benevolent government is still allowing human and Evo experimentation so they can get their army of supersoldiers. We know too much and we are not safe here. And my world is not safe from them."

Sighing heavily, she looks back at the men and listens to Mateo's thoughts. "Oh shit," she breathes when he shows that. "That's… if you assume that a black hole goes somewhere, that makes sense, Mateo. Your open portals connected their loose ends somewhere in the void between the superstrings." The elation is crushed by the implications though. "And if that's true, it basically means that if we want to get home, someone on that end needs to open a portal there and… hope they connect?"

Oh God.

Eileen has already lived this argument with Gabriel, loudly and with fervor so passionate it verged on religious. She’s much quieter now. “This isn’t a fairytale,” she reminds Elisabeth, “your children aren’t princesses, you’re not any more or less special than anyone else — and you and Varlane can’t just Goldilocks your way across worlds until you find one that’s just right.

“You want to go home?” she asks. “Fine. Own it, but don’t pretend you haven’t been trying to figure out how to do exactly that since the moment you first set foot here—”

If there was more — there’s always more — whatever words whose edges she’d started to hone in her mouth are cut short when the fiery light emanating from Gabriel’s hands falls across the side of her face. The glow draws her focus, and the focus of the birds hanging back in the trees.

She’d ask him to stop now, except that he won’t.

"There's no way you could predict something like that," Gabriel says, gently, to Elisabeth. Gently because sometimes his voice just does that — it could be reassuring, but only by accident. Subdued is a better description. "There's no way Nakamura could predict something like that. But he talked about windows of opportunity— "

But standing here, staring at the little short-form portal exits hovering in the air, it's impossible to say what that might mean.

Probability. Prediction. The subtle arrangement of conditions.

Slowly, the subtle glow of radioactive energy from his fingers flicker in and out. At the same time, one of the portals becomes rimmed with that same queasy light. "What went sideways last time?" Gabriel asks, concentrating again wholly on the depthless black, light vanished within.

Something in the air seems to shift. A low level vibration that keens low against Elisabeth's attuned ears, his own more sensitive hearing, and only felt by Eileen and Ruiz. In the trees around them, birds take flight. The sound seems to emanate from the two black keyholes, and Gabriel barely hears any verbalised response to his question before he raises his other hand. Ruiz may feel it like a dull pressure in his head when the radioactive-lined portal starts expanding, incrementally. A second later, it's the size of a disc. A few more, it's the size of a record.

The edges seem corroded, as if the portal were burning through reality, bleeding from beyond, like a projection from melting film, like the nightmare dimming from your waking mind, a cigarette burn against paper, a sun swallowing the sky.

The size of a mirror on the wall.

The size of a door.

My world is not safe, are words that ring with better clarity in their minds, ordering their thoughts into something they can hear like a whisper. If you assume a black hole goes somewhere, own the moment you set foot sideways.

Predictions can also be wrong, as Ruiz would remind them. After all, Edward Ray thought one woman would come through, not two, not to mention someone extremely different than those who had. “We were testing it with a radio…” he says, before his voice trails off due to the sudden sharp pain in his head. That the size of his portal changes alone would surprise him— he’s only seen that happen once before. On the rooftop right before they left. When a handful of survivors who had made it to the roof with them were ripped apart by his ability rather than finding safety on the other side.

Relative safety. Safety that may no longer be safe for some.

The words whispered in the mind are punctuated by a tightening of his chest, something that Liz can hear, a quickening of his pulse. Not skipping beats, yet, but definitely a fluctuation. He doesn’t outright assume that anyone else can hear the voice, as it drowns out the usual sound that’s always present in his head, except for when he’s negating himself. That sound has never had a voice. Except when something spoke once, through a radio. The void, Magnes had called it.

“I can’t…” he whispers, looking toward the one that didn’t change. It’s no longer a sleek black oil-textured portal surrounded by a small ring of electricity. It shifts and moves and sparks. He can barely feel the other one, it’s changed so much. He’s not sure he could close it if he tried. The smaller one looks as if it might collapse into itself, the lines of lightning throbbing like one might imagine veins do as a heart pulses. In fact it throbs to the beat of his heart, whether he realizes it or not. Liz might.

The edge shudders. The sickly surface flickers and moves, like pictures projected onto a distorted surface of water that’s begun to ripple. With a sudden flash of light, it falls apart, leaving behind just the one door sized one that had grown and shifted.

Ruiz falls to his knees as the smaller one fails.

A single brow quirks toward Eileen and her demand that Elisabeth "own it" brings only the simple retort, "Of course I've been looking, wouldn't you?" But her attention is pulled immediately to the men as the power starts really shifting the look of the portal. She jerks slightly at the hum that starts vibrating her head, her arms coming uncrossed as she moves a step closer to Mateo. Her brows pull together in a deep frown, and her attention sharpens on the man who is the source of the portals. His heart condition is of paramount concern to her here, and she's been monitoring the sound of his heartbeats peripherally. Now she has a singular focus on them. The words in her head seem like so much static at first, but they're not — and it's not the first time strange things have happened.

As Mateo's heart begins to stutter, Liz looks toward Gabriel. "Stop! Don't feed it more!" She is already in motion as Ruiz drops to his knees, her hands seeking his shoulders and worry darkening her features. "Breathe slowly," she murmurs to Ruiz, hoping that because he let it go, his heart will settle. And her eyes turn toward Gabriel with clear worry. "Are you okay??" is the first question she fires at him — she's not even sure if he'll be able to answer or whether he actually has control of the portal that still exists. "Gabriel, what's happening? Shut it!" Because they will only be able to determine if it's hurting him by either his words or his reactions. "Did you hear that?"

Eileen’s training as a nurse practitioner compels her to join Elisabeth at Mateo’s side, but the concern she feels for her husband when reaches out to test the psychic connection strung tenuously between them has her doing something very different.

Her steps are slow, deliberate, and carry her in a tight and cautious arc around where Elisabeth already has guiding hands on his shoulders and whispered words of reassurance for his ears. She holds out a hand, palm turned up, as she positions herself between the two dimensional interlopers and Gabriel’s silhouette with its broad shoulders and strong neck, lean hips and waist. His shape is a familiar comfort; she’s spent the past several years taking shelter in the shadow it casts.

Right now, however, it’s also posing an immediate threat to the people crouched behind her.

She can sense his excitement. She can sense his Hunger.

“Gabriel,” she reiterates, struggling to wrangle her own emotions. Fear is high among them. “Listen to Harrison. To me. You have to close it.”

Standing upright and steady, Gabriel Gray is perfectly fine.

His hands remain open and directed towards the portal, and when that smaller one finally collapses, that bass reverberation is quick to rise to a dull roar, air churning restlessly, a wind drawn into the black mirror stretching in front of them, tilted and looming. His pupils are large in his eyes, subtly bracing against the growing vacuum that threatens to pull them in.

Elisabeth's words are lost in the drone — the kind within his own head, that is — but Eileen's cuts through like a knife, and he says, "No," throwing an urgent, if highly distracted look towards her. Wildness contained with solid flesh and bone. "It's broken.

"I can fix it."

Electricity crackles across his skin, and that radioactive glow casts a sheen from his bones. In that moment, the portal suddenly expands large and black, and the vacuum sucking in towards the portal threatens to drag them all towards it — and then it reverses, a sudden shove of wind and force that rocks them backwards, Gabriel catching himself with a bracing step back. Dust comes streaming through the broad portal opening. Earth. Leaves. Twigs.

And then—

What comes slamming out from the placid black surface is twisted metal and a sound that pierces the dull roar — machine gun fire. A spray of bullets goes wild from the senseless chaos as the shape slams into the ground with a mechanised whirr and screech. Four legs. Glowing red eyes. A feline skull of steel and steam flooding out between a ribcage of superheated metal, mounted guns spinning.

Bullets knock Gabriel off his feet, flattened against electrified forcefield stretched over his feet. In the chaos of churned earth and whirlwind still pouring forth from the fire-rimmed black break in reality, Elisabeth sees Eileen going flying back in the same moment, spun off her feet and thrown to the forest floor.

Gun fire stops, and the hunter climbs to its feet with the whine of protesting steel.

If he’d had a moment to speak, Ruiz might have tried to say he’s fine. When the second portal collapsed the pain stopped, even if the roar in his head did not. It’s almost as if the other man, with all his abilities, had found a way to actually take over the very hole he had created— as if he was holding it there. The pulse might have had a chance to slow— if Gabriel had heeded his wife’s words and closed it.

Instead of fixing it.

And fix it he had, for what comes out of the doorway ripped through space definitely did not belong here.

The angry metallic motions, the firing of the machine gun— it fills the silence in the air and makes him get down even more than his body had when his knees gave out. Nothing seems to hit him, as he doesn’t move again until the firing stops and the metal thing’s joints groan in protest. He reaches for his ability, but air doesn’t even shift. All of his ability is still tied up in whatever it is that the other man had been doing with it.

She wasn't expecting… that. Elisabeth has a moment of absolute shock as the metallic feline-esque machine comes tumbling through the portal, her hands suddenly tight and painful on Ruiz's shoulders. "Hunter!" The word blurts out of her as if those with her should know what it is, although they can't possibly — Liz herself is possibly one of the only people in this world to see these bastards. Only the fact that she's crouched partially behind Ruiz keeps her from landing on her butt when all the yanking starts. And with Eileen down, Gabriel … God only knows what… and Ruiz down, she's the only target left standing. And she's grateful that Eileen and Gabe are at an angle to where she and Ruiz are, because at least she doesn't have to worry about who is behind the thing.

Instinct alone in this moment guides her ramp-up and hurl of the sonic boom that she's used in times past, hurtling the blast low to the ground in an attempt to essentially pull a Skywalker on the machine — the moment brings a flashback of Ryans doing something similar in Alaska that she might later laugh and cry about in equal measure. "Don't let it gain its feet!" she shouts, moving toward where the hunter bot's flanks will land if she manages to drop it.

Eileen is lost in a haze.

She hears sounds: a mechanical shriek and groan, the roar of her pulse swiftly depleting into a low, intermittent murmur. Elisabeth is shouting, she thinks, although she can’t quite make out what.

More elusive still are physical sensations. Intellectually, she understands that the taste in her mouth is her blood filling it, and the darkness crowding in around the corners of her vision is due to a sudden decrease in pressure. The shorn grass under her cheek feels strangely soft.

Her fingers seek out a fistful of earth, groping for something solid for her to grab onto, to use as leverage so she can find her feet, as Elisabeth put it. When she tries to straighten her elbow, it buckles.

At some point it occurs to her that she’s dying, but by the time that it does she lacks the strength to do anything except make peace with it.

When Gabriel lifts his head, his expression is uncomprehending, steered late towards the mechanical monster just as Elisabeth hits it with a sonic wall of force. Already off balanced, its sense of orientation scrambled, the blow knocks it backwards, the gun seizing — but it's tough. Tougher than Elisabeth remembers. The guns are new, something solid and reinforced to its frame.

A machine of war.

Which doesn't mean it really stands a chance, between them. As that turret pivots to lock, it suddenly shudders as thin beams of light sweep close, searing black marks into the grass and rising to sink into metal flank. The leg it had got beneath it suddenly buckles for a second time, and hydraulic fluid spills out from within, steam and smoke both rising.

Still 'alive', so to speak, if crippled, head rolling on its spine to level its red gaze towards Elisabeth and Ruiz as that second gun takes aim.

Gabriel's hand lowers, laser beams fading as his attention is drawn unstoppably towards Eileen lying on the ground feet away from him. "Eileen," he breathes out, and then moves at a panicked crawl, hands reaching for her, coated red with blood almost immediately. In him, the transformation is apparent, all trance and determination hollowed out of him, replaced with a human worry that's warming to panic. "Eileen, look at me— "

The portal floats in the air, pulsing, holding, threatening collapse or expansion, draining Ruiz of life and energy. The blasting wind and debris begins its reversal like a breath drawn in after a big sigh.

There’s one thing Ruiz knows immediately. What’s happening is something that he can’t stop. He tries to mentally grasp at his ability, but he can feel himself weakening as that roar in his head gets louder and louder. That tightness in his chest is back, the pain in his head. A little blood starts to fall from his nose. Not near the amounts when Magnes had been un-expertly poking at his ability, though.

Perhaps he’s recovered more from those first tests, perhaps the way that Gabriel took it over is so fundamentally different. It still hurts, but his heart isn’t missing beats, at the very least, even if his blood pressure fluctuating. His attention should be on the gun that’s being leveled in his direction, but he’s too busy looking across the grass and forest floor toward the brit that has joined him on the ground.

And Gabriel bending over her.

While his heart may not be skipping beats, he suddenly has a different reason to feel a tightness in his chest. Because this could have been him. Or her. Or them.

Because he understands the sight of seeing your wife dying when there’s nothing at all you can do about it.

As it drops the second time, Elisabeth clambers up the machine's flanks toward the middle of the chassis. It's been a few years since she faced off with these things, but despite new weaponry, she's reasonably sure of one thing… it still needs power, and power requires cables that connect to things. She doesn't have time for anything fancy. She's learned a lot about her power, but putting some of that knowledge to use has been a little more difficult. Although she might, if given the moment to think about it, love to attempt to use some of those newer techniques… she'd rather no one else get shot!

Leaning inward, focusing her ability tightly into the ribcage, she pounds into the innards through the steam vents with fast, sharp concussion blasts until finally the machinery's couplings start to give out and the connections that hold the inner components together are no longer doing their job. Bits and pieces litter the ground beneath the chassis with each hit, and Elisabeth doesn't pause until the lights go out in the 'creature's' optical sensors.

Panting heavily, she slides off the machine and shouts to Gabriel, "You've got to close it!! It's going to suck us all in!!!" Eileen…. Oh God, Eileen was actually hit. Please, dear God, let Gabriel be harboring a healing ability…

She doesn't realize what a Monkey's Paw prayer that could turn out to be in this moment. All she can hope is that she did not just get someone else killed. And they've got to close the portal.

If Eileen could look at Gabriel, she would.

She doesn’t, because she can’t. Her body is a ragdoll under his hands, no resistance in her lax shoulders when turned over. Eyes that have already begun to go glassy and unfocused are set on a fixed point. Lingering desire to reach for his hand manifests as only a slight curl of her fingers.

The psychic thread that connects them has already begun to fray and unravel, but is still intact enough for her to funnel her final, disjointed thoughts and impressions through to him.

She’s sorry they fought.

She’s sorry about some of the things she said. Not all of them.

She’s sorry she couldn’t be the partner he needed: one who would have stopped him.

She’s sorry—

Gabriel gathers Eileen into his arms with frantic hand-over-hand grabs that still and clasp, kneeling in the dirt even as the earth around them drifts up into the air, siphoned off into the gaping vortex hanging negligently behind them. That queasy radioactive light has started to fade, less from any deliberate action on Gabriel's part so much as his focus has shifted, and its immense maw is beginning to diminish.


It isn't the least of their worries but also not the only one. Blood floods senselessly out into Eileen's clothing, Gabriel's clothing, the earth beneath them, quicker than he can manipulate, all semblance of control scattered from his brain like the cawing panicked birds darting in and out of the forest around them.

He's crying without realising it, obscuring his vision and strangling his breathing, but he manages to focus his mind one thing — his harboured healing ability.

Black, ashy smoke seems to drift up off his skin, and starts spreading. Immediately, the fine green stalks of grass pushing up through the autumn forest floor all wither, crumbling to ash that lifts into the air, drawn to the vortex. Soft thumps of bird bodies fall from the air immediately above, reduced to bone and wet ash before they hit the ground. A nearby tree cracks as its vitality is siphoned away, leaves withering into nothing but dust.

And that corrosive dark energy is growing, feeding, more and more of it pouring out of Gabriel — and siphoning directly into Eileen's broken body, flooding through bullet wounds that mend themselves around it, but not stopping.

As that ash feeds the vortex, as those dark tendrils reach for life-giving energy, the radioactive light sustaining it dims and is replaced by something else. Ghostly grey light rims it, and darkness seems to bleed past that tremulous border. More tendrils of darkness leak from the vortex like ribbons of ink in water. Where they quest and touch the trees around it, those trees buckle, turning to ash and splinters immediately, their vitality seeming to drain directly into the abyss and the force sustaining it.

The vortex pulses once, and then grows.

That vacuum pull strengthens with a sudden gust, and for a moment, Elisabeth and Mateo would be forgiven for thinking that Gabriel is lost utterly in the process of funnelling life force from the forest around them and into Eileen, but in truth, it becomes apparent that it's almost happening without him. The grip he has on her has loosened, creating only a stiff frame of his arms and hands as the conduit continues to flow out of him and drink the world around him of its power.

He looks towards where the forest ground is becoming fine ash, creeping closer and closer and faster and faster towards Elisabeth and Mateo, and seems to see them for the first time since that strange voice emanated from the portal. In his expression, they see it clearly: nothing is within his control.

He says, "Run."

While Ruiz has no idea what it was that Gabriel had been doing with his ability, he could recognize what the black tendrils mean. Because he’s seen it before. In another world, he’d been a member of Vanguard. And they had both seen what happened on the rooftop just before they left, with the black shadowy death destroying those who had travelled with them to the rooftop.

And Elisabeth had missed what happened after. When Peter’s body finally gave out and the blue eyed monster rose again as Richard Cardinal, a true shadow of death to haunt a dying world for eternity.

Run, he says. “We have to go!” he yells, clawing his way back to his feet as the grass dies around him, as trees wilt and fall to ash. This ability will not discriminate. He can tell that already. Running will be difficult, with so much energy sapped from him, with his heart already beating as if he were currently running.

But he also knows what Gabriel must be trying to do. And he certainly doesn’t fault him. After all, he’d held his dying wife and had no way to do anything about it a world away. Would he have killed people to save her?

Yes. He probably would have.

He’s not even sure he would have told them to run first. But understanding doesn’t stop him from getting to his feet and following those very instructions. He’s going to run.

They blew it. They blew it so fucking bad. Elisabeth watches in horror; it never occurred to her that he was housing that power. Should it have? Probably. And maybe other-Liz had known or maybe not — this one certainly didn't. But she recognizes the despair quite well, just as Mateo does. She, too, has watched the person she loved die a hideous death, more than once.

For a split second, Liz can't move, can't follow that direction. The same instinct that sent her into the black hole roots her feet to the ground — will staying or going be worse? But the deeper instinct for self-preservation kicks in, and Elisabeth stumbles after Ruiz, unaware of the tears that streak her face as they retreat. She keeps herself between Mateo and Gabriel every step of the way, the old habits of protecting others before herself still fundamentally part of her.

The cosmic scales tip.

As life drains out of Gabriel and into Eileen, restoring breath to her lungs, colour to her cheeks, and warmth to her skin, something else does too. She inhales, swift and sharp, swallowing the residual blood in her mouth, or letting it spill from its corners.

Her body strengthens; it follows that the psychic tether should, too, repaired by the influx of healing energy forcing the bullets out of her body where they tinkle harmlessly into the slick, wet grass.

But it doesn’t. It only continues to thin, narrowing like the last beams of sunlight through the trees until all Gabriel can feel of Eileen is the vague outline of the telepathic space she used to occupy.

When she finally looks at him, as he’d instructed her to, it’s with someone else’s eyes.

They’re very blue.

One hand finally finds Gabriel’s forearm and bites pale porcelain fingernails into his skin. The other reaches up as if to cradle his jaw.

“Sylar,” says Kazimir Volken, in his wife’s voice. “Thank you for looking after my little bird for me.”


Eileen’s hand touches his cheek, strips flesh from bone and reduces muscle to black, greasy ash. His skin blisters, burns away like layers of wood under the intense heat of a pyre.

Her consciousness feels very far away, unreachable and opaque in the place where Gabriel’s ability informs him it now resides. He recognizes it, because he was once trapped inside the cage of his own body, too.

For an instant, the shadow of her blind terror seems to pass over his vision. Then: nothing.

Questing, ashy plumes of darkness roll and stretch and reach, the forest dying all they touch, all they near. Mateo and Elisabeth run and leave behind them the dull roar of the portal until all they hear are their own heart beats, their own frantic, shallow breathing, the crunching off their footfalls through the rich autumnal forest floor — and a gradual snap and crack and rustle of desiccated trees collapse behind them, branches breaking, exploding into ash on impact. The expanding grey radius of a forest drained of vitality chases them until

(and Gabriel doesn't let go of her, even as necrotic energy brings about ancient decay to living bone and tissue, and all he is is siphoned back into the body of Eileen and the creature that lives there


and becomes ash, fluttering away from her towards the rapidly shrinking vortex, disappearing into the abyss as it closes, and that awful howling ceases)

it stops. The roaring rush of vacuum they'd left behind falls away, and behind them is only a graveyard of withered forest, an obscuring haze of ash hanging in the air, the low-light of the sunset casting longer shadows.



The sound of cicadas, distantly.

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